Adventure of a lifetime for the bravest children

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DOZENS of Scotland’s bravest children created a melee of Christmas cheer at Waverley before jumping aboard a special train to take them on an adventure of a lifetime.

More than 100 kids from across the country were treated to a dream journey on the Northern Polar Express organised by When You Wish Upon A Star, a charity who work with children with a terminal or life-threatening illness.

Tickles the clown is joined by Amber and Amy Ewing with their brother James Ewing and Ava Dunlop with sister Holly before they jumped aboard the Belmond Northern Belle train for special trip, Picture; Jon Savage

Tickles the clown is joined by Amber and Amy Ewing with their brother James Ewing and Ava Dunlop with sister Holly before they jumped aboard the Belmond Northern Belle train for special trip, Picture; Jon Savage

The station platform was awash with enthusiastic dancing and singing before families and volunteers boarded the train, helped by larger-than-life elves Holly and Ivy from the Bread and Butter theatre Group.

Charity patron Nicola Wood, former Miss Scotland winner and TV presenter, was on hand to help out and said being involved with the When You Wish Upon A Star was a no brainer.

She said: “This is such a tremendous charity. I don’t know anyone in the world who wouldn’t want to be involved with them if they came to any of these events and met the families and the children, and saw just how much it means to all of them.”

Nicola and husband Garreth Wood, who live in East Lothian, suffered the tragic loss of triplets in July 2013.

“Children’s charities are very close to our hearts, she said.

“We have been through quite difficult times with our little ones, so can understand, in some part, what these parents are going through.”

The train, dazzling with Christmas decorations and packed with delicious treats including a hoard of hot chocolate choices, chugged out of Waverley towards Glamis Castle for the day of fun.

Each family travelling on the magical journey was treated to a booth on the Belmond Northern Belle – sister train to the Orient Express – and enjoyed a luxury four-course meal on the return journey.

The day of festive crafts and entertainment at Glamis culminated with a spectacular fireworks display.

And for eight-year-old Holly Dunlop, from Livingston, the quest to find Santa and his grotto was the best part of the day.

“And being out in our pyjamas! It’s awesome,” she said.

Holly was diagnosed with acute lymphoid leukaemia (ALL) last October. Her mum Pauline described the moment they found out as the moment her world stopped.

“We have lost a year of our lives,” she said. “It’s been like living in a bubble and today is just so exciting for her. We’re making memories as she may never get this chance again.”

Holly was joined by dad Colin and six-year-old sister Ava.

Colin said: “Days like this are a chance for us to live in the normal world. And we’ve had a great day, I think I was more excited than anyone.”

Nicola added: “Being around families when everyone is healthy and happy and you know your child is not very well, must be really difficult for parents, so there is comfort in being around people who understand what you’re going through.”

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk